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Are prior authorizations required when a doctor or health plan distributes promotional gifts of nominal value?


No. In a specific exception, the HIPAA Privacy Rule allows covered entities to distribute items commonly known as promotional gifts of nominal value without prior authorization, even if such items are distributed with the intent of encouraging the receiver to buy the products or services.

This authorization exception generally applies to items and services of a third party, whether or not they are health-related, or items and services of the covered entity that are not health-related. A covered doctor, for instance, may send patients items such as pens, note-pads, and cups embossed with a health plan’s logo without prior authorization. Similarly, dentists may give patients free toothbrushes, floss and toothpaste.

Date Created: 12/20/2002
Last Updated: 03/14/2006